“Buddy proves once again that German shepherds are awesome dogs, what a legacy she left behind”
German shepherds are well known for their service to the blind. The first seeing eye dog in America belonged to a man named Morris Frank, who traveled to Switzerland to get his guide dog named Buddy.
When Morris Frank first learned about dogs being trained to help veterans who were blinded in World War I, he was frustrated about his own independence due to his vision impairment. So, he wrote to Dorothy Harrison Eustis, who trained German shepherd police dogs in Switzerland, and asked her for help.
When Ms. Eustis read Morris Frank’s letter, she was moved. She agreed to help him on the condition when he returned from training and went back to the United States, that he would spread the word about seeing eye dogs. Morris Frank agreed and traveled to Switzerland for training.
On June 11, 1928, Morris Frank returned to the United States with his highly trained German shepherd, the first seeing eye dog in America. Upon his arrival in New York, he immediately proved to the world how valuable Buddy was because, in front of a throng of reporters, he navigated across a dangerous street with Buddy’s help.
Back home, Buddy gave Morris Frank his independence back. She allowed him to get in out of cars, safely walk down sidewalks, cross busy streets, step up curbs, navigate around obstacles, and even take peaceful strolls down county roads. With Buddy by his side, Mr. Frank could walk taller, take longer strides, and feel confident about his movements.
From the time Mr. Frank learned how to put Buddy’s harness on her, he knew he would live up to his promise to educate the public about the value of seeing eye dogs. Buddy was the perfect ambassador for the seeing eye movement in America, and in 1929 Morris Frank co-founded Seeing Eye, Inc., which still operates today.
Morris Frank and Buddy opened doors of opportunity for thousands of blind people. With the help of a guide dog, it was possible for the blind to independently travel by train and plane, go into restaurants, go to work, and even attend busy events, like the World’s Fair, which Buddy and Mr. Frank enjoyed together proving again that anything was possible with the help of a guide dog.
Today, Seeing Eye helps vision-impaired people live independently across the United States. They breed and raise seeing-eye dogs, train them to guide blind people, and instruct blind people on the use, handling, and care of the dogs.
Their mission is to “enhance the independence, dignity, and self-confidence of people who are blind, through the use of specially trained Seeing Eye dogs.” In pursuit of the mission, The Seeing Eye:
- Breeds and raises puppies to become Seeing Eye dogs;
- Trains Seeing Eye dogs to guide blind people;
- Instructs blind people in the proper use, handling, and care of the dogs;
- Conducts and supports research on canine health and development.
Of course, German shepherds are a vital part of the Seeing Eye program, but they also use other breeds such as golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers. You can go to their website and learn about their dogs, donate, and even name a puppy.
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